Lili Rocha is a true global phenomenon. Born in a small town in Brazil, Rocha’s rise to stardom began after winning the Garbriela talent show in Ilhéus, but being a successful performer in her native country wasn’t enough for the singer-songwriter. Rocha eventually relocated to Europe and studied at the Accademia di Musica Italiana where she began recording original music. Her first album, Me Deixa Sonhar, connected with many of her countrymen back in Brazil, and also became a huge success in Italy selling over 80,000 copies. The soft rock songtress has gone on to record four studio albums in four different languages including 2010’s English debut, Lili Rocha Rocks.
The eleven track LP introduced Rocha to a new American audience, and like her fans in Europe and South America, North American music supporters fell in love with her American folk inspired songs about chasing dreams. The album’s lead single reached number 27 on Billboard’s Dance Chart, and sparked Rocha’s first U.S. tour the same year.
Lili is now back with her latest single, “Find Your Star”. Already a huge hit in Italy (partially thanks to being featured during coverage of the EURO 2012) the new track is set to further Lili’s global expansion. In this DZI: The Voice interview, Lili Rocha shares about growing up in Brazil, conquering the European market, what she learned from her first trip to the U.S., and of course- the music.
Yohance Kyles: When did you first discover your voice as an artist?
Lili Rocha: I started singing when I was 12 years old. All of my family and friends told me I had a very special voice with a unique, dark tone.
I first got in contact with Western music (pop and rock). It changed my life.
YK: What was life like growing up in a small town in Brazil?
LR: My parents had a farm in Bahia where I grew up with nine brothers and sisters, surrounded by nature and animals. I never put shoes on… I guess we were pretty wild. I loved it! In terms of music and culture, we were quite isolated from what was happening in the world. We basically only listened to popular Brazilian music. This changed after we moved from our farm into the nearby town when I was about 12 years old. That’s when I first got in contact with Western music (pop and rock). It changed my life.
YK: Why did you eventually relocate to Europe?
LR: I always dreamed of becoming an international singer, and for some reason I really liked Italian music. When I was presented with the opportunity to go to Europe to represent the Carnival of Bahia, I jumped on it. Although the initial months in Europe were very tough, I decided to stay. I currently work mostly in Italy, but I live in Switzerland.
YK: You have a big following in Italy and Switzerland. What do you think it is about your music that has connected with so many people in those markets?
LR: It’s hard to say. I guess my music, which is a blend of melodic rock and pop, is quite accessible and appeals to people of all ages. The color of my voice certainly has something to do with it, too, and the fact that I sing in four different languages (Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and English).
YK: You released your first English language album in the US in 2010. What’s the difference between trying to break into the European market and trying to break into the American market?
LR: There really is no big difference. Though you think the US market is one big single market, it really is quite fragmented not as much as the European market, but still. The key is to find the point of entry. In Europe, I was most successful in the Italian market, and in the US I am most successful in urban areas like New York, Los Angeles and Miami, where people are open to foreign influence and music styles.
YK: Your first English single, “I’m Alright”, was a hit on Billboard’s dance/club chart even though it didn’t have the euro-pop or EDM sound that has been dominating club music the last few years. Why do you think the song still resonated with listeners of modern dance music?
LR: I believe the song as such is very strong and it has a positive message. I also think that the remixes by Wolf and the other two DJs were outside of the mainstream and they seemed to have touched a chord. Obviously, my dark voice may also have something to do with it.
To me [“Find Your Star”] was more about finding yourself, following your heart, and remaining true to who you are.
YK: Your latest single “Find Your Star” is an inspirational power ballad that was featured heavily in Italy during EURO 2012. Did you expect the song would become such a huge sports anthem?
LR: Frankly, no. To me the song was more about finding yourself, following your heart, and remaining true to who you are, and not so much about winning. But, of course, I can see why it also works for sports, and I am happy it does!
YK: You’ve released songs in English, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Do you change your approach to recording depending on which language you’re singing in?
LR: No, not really. The line-up of the musicians changes. When I record latin songs I want to have musicians that have the latin music in their blood, and when I’m recording English pop-rock music, I want American musicians to accompany me. It’s a matter of musical accent more than anything else.
YK: Which of your albums is your personal favorite?
LR: I will always be very attached to my first album “Me Deixa Sonhar”, just because it was my first one and it turned out to be such an unexpected success in Italy. Artistically, my new album is my favorite, as it contains so many personal songs and I spent so much time creating and completing it. My new album sounds just the way I always wanted my music to sound – I finally got there!
YK: How was your experience touring in America for the first time?
LR: It felt great! To perform in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Miami in front of American audiences was a dream come true. I can’t wait to get on the road again!
YK: What did you learn about America that you didn’t know before you arrived?
LR: Americans are much more open and enthusiastic about music than I had expected. I guess that was the biggest surprise to me.
YK: If you could choose any 3 artists to duet with, who would choose?
LR: I would choose Cher, as I have admired her art and beauty for so many years; Tina Turner, who is so true in her art and such a great performer; and Bruce Springsteen, who I admire for his unique voice and high energy!
YK: What’s next for Lili Rocha?
LR: My new album, “Into the Fire”, will be released in Europe in the next couple of weeks, so I will be busy promoting the album. In Spring, I plan to come to the US and do a concert tour in several major cities.